Electronic word of mouth (eWOM) is one of the most significant ways in which companies can gain leads or direct custom. After all, you have probably visited websites on the recommendation of someone else and there is a wide variety of ways your own website can get visitors to recommend it, such as a Facebook “Like”. However, just how good are all those recommendations? Do they actually have any real impact?
New research suggests the impact is limited unless you pay attention to your website and who your “Likers” are. Being liked by just anyone is seemingly worthless. This is because the research has found that the impact of eWOM is dependent upon a variety of factors. Some of those are dependent upon the recipient themselves, such as whether they seek buying information socially. However, two factors stand out in this study – the reputation of the website itself and the credibility of the person actively recommending it.
This means that eWOM only works if you have two things in place:
- A credible website
- Respected recommenders
In other words, simply having buttons for anyone to press on any website so that they can “like” it or share it in some way is ineffective. What you want is to garner recommendations only from people who are also highly respected and trusted in the same way as your website.
There is much advice on the web about creating a social word of mouth impact by making sure you give people every opportunity to share what you do. So much so, that there is an endless array of plugins, add-ons and scripts to ensure you can share every web page of your site with everyone on every social network known to humankind. Except this new research implies that this is the wrong way to go.
The study effectively tells us what businesses have known for centuries, but seem to want to forget in the online world – it is all about relationships. If you have a good relationship with a customer because your work is respected and trusted they will pass on your details to others who trust and respect them. Indeed, this is the foundation of much business.
The problem in the past few years is that many online businesses seem to think there is some kind of web-based Holy Grail which allows you to simply connect ANYONE together and as a result this web of interconnections will lead to business.
Whilst that’s possible, it yields lower returns than the much harder work of getting down to it and building relationships.
In addition, this study also showed that respected and trusted people who pass on your website details have a much greater likelihood of having an impact if your website is already respected. That really means you need a well-known brand. And much branding is done offline, not online.
So what can you do in order to capitalise on word of mouth marketing? Goodness me, it is good old-fashioned, solid, reliable, business sense – establish a great brand and build relationships with respected people who can recommend you.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+